This topic may seem way off base for a real estate blog, but our little town has just been shocked and saddened by a tragedy this week in which two adolescents drowned in a local waterfall. My own children are the same ages and we are all in mourning for the loss of these young lives.
This tragedy occurred in a waterfall that we swim in frequently. However, I know what the reaction will be…close off the waterfall; don’t let your children near the rivers, and more. The opposite needs to be happening; we need to make sure that every person and every child knows how to swim and how to swim well. I have seen and heard so many tragedies with water over time, boat wrecks, rip currents, swimming pool accidents, tsunamis. Now, I am not saying that even the best swimmer could overcome some of these acts of Mother Nature (including this one) and there are always many more factors to consider such as being hit directly on the head by objects or diving into rocks, but I am always saddened when in light of such events, one of the main things I hear is, “They didn’t know how to swim.”
In many cultures, even ones based directly next to the sea, it is not common for people to know how to swim. In Costa Rica, this is also the case, and yet we see people playing in the ocean who don’t know how to swim. I have been told, “We don’t go too deep. We stay at the edge.” What if a wave comes and pulls you further out? What if the boat you are on goes down and you can’t get to a life vest? Swimming is the only sport that if you don’t learn it, you could die.
We must make an effort to get every child in swimming lessons. In addition, it is important to teach the strength of nature. Don’t swim in rip currents, know how to identify them, but also know how to get out of them. Know the strength of a waterfall and which ones are fine to play under as if you were in a tropical movie and which ones are just too strong for the human body.
I am not in any way placing blame or judging anyone in this current tragedy, but with every tragedy, we have to learn for the future. What do we take from this? Do we let their lives be in vain? Do we follow our gut reaction and just close off swimming pools and all access to rivers? My suggestion is to teach every child how to swim from the very earliest moment and also teach them to recognize danger. Children will be interested in water. Accidents happen.
Giving our children the skills to at least try to avoid or survive these accidents are vital. Sponsor a child in swimming lessons. Our little town of Atenas, with the “Best Climate in the World” should be producing Olympic swimmers as we can swim outside, year-round. There are lessons from Wednesday to Saturday in all hours at the local swimming pool (Balneario El Cerro) for little ones up to adults. It’s great exercise and it can save lives. Learn to swim, teach young ones to swim, and sponsor others in swimming lessons. Have certifications in lifesaving techniques. It might not have prevented this current tragedy, but it can prevent others in the future. I plead with you all, in every town and every country, to recognize the importance of water safety and teaching swimming to our children.
Side note: Although I focused on swimming for children, it is never too late to learn. You never know when it could save your life or the lives of others.
Tina Newton is half owner of Tristan & Newton Real Estate and has lived in Atenas for 17 years. Check out their Facebook page and “like” it for more information or see the website for their listings. Feel free to contact her for any questions about living in Costa Rica.